Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Border Songs by Jim Lynch

I vividly remember an experience I had at the US/Canadian border when I was in college. I was crossing back into the US with a couple friends. As the driver I was asked what town I was from. When I replied Mt. Vernon, the border person asked me who was the vice-principal at the high school and when I answered correctly waved me through. He didn’t seem to be concerned with who else was in the car or in seeing any identification at all. It was a kinder, gentler and possibly more na├»ve time.

Border Songs is set at today’s border near the Peace Arch in Washington State and British Columbia. A ditch is all that separates many parts of Canada from the US there, with neighbors being on one side of the ditch or the other. I hope this is exaggerated fiction as the amount of people crossing illegally to get into the US or to smuggle in pot seems insane.

In this novel Brandon Vanderkool is the newest border agent. He makes many busts right away. It is not because he is trying, but rather he watches for birds and can’t help but see the people or anomalous items around him. His dad, Norm, is a struggling dairy farmer whose wife is losing her memory. With his farm right on the border, Norm’s tempted with monetary offers to look the other way. One entertaining scene in the book takes place when Brandon is being shown all the new video cameras that have been placed along the border. One is pointed right at his dad’s farm and he witnesses some very strange behavior while trying to pay attention to his chief’s lecture.

Brandon does not relate well to people and much of this book is about him trying to figure out if a childhood friend, Madeline, is still a friend or not. Madeline, lives on the Canadian side of the border, and is becoming more and more involved in smuggling. It seems everyone on both sides is trying to get something across the border. Brandon even ends up arresting his sixth grade teacher. Border Songs is definitely a good read and I especially recommend it to anyone who lives near the border. I’d love to hear comments on what it is like to be living in Blaine or Lynden now.

Jim Lynch also wrote The Highest Tide, a young adult novel that focuses on a 13 year old boy growing up on the Puget Sound. I really enjoyed that book as well with its great descriptions of the sound and its marine life.

Escape to Books

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